Native leaders say building can resume

Family of beaten man still angry

September 17, 2007
Dana Borcea
The Hamilton Spectator
(Sep 17, 2007)

The developers of a Caledonia subdivsion occupied last week by native protesters hope to resume construction on the site this morning.

John Kragten and Dave Van Elslander were scheduled to meet with Six Nations Confederacy representatives late last night for a "final meeting" after several in-depth negotiations over the weekend.

"We would like to (restart construction) with their blessing," said Kragten last night. His partner Van Elslander said the pair were told after a three-hour meeting with Confederacy clan mothers and a subchief on Saturday that they could expect to go back to work today.

But while the developers expressed cautious optimism, family members of a builder beaten unconscious at the site Thursday are frustrated that the native protesters reportedly responsible are still at large.

Sam Gualtieri is still in hospital recovering from face and head injuries after confronting a group of native protesters in one of two houses on the Stirling Street subdivision he is building for his daughters. He was found unconscious after the scuffle.

His brother Joe said he was told by developers that during a weekend meeting, the native leaders had given the green light for police to arrest trespassers on the site.

"Why couldn't police arrest someone before?" asked Joe.

"Someone had to get hurt for it to come to this."

He worried the protesters had fled the site and that police had missed their chance to apprehend them.

Joe added his brother told him from his hospital bed that he'd recognized at least one of his attackers. The 52-year-old Caledonia-based builder has worked in the area for 30 years. His brother said Sam had built several houses on the Six Nations reserve and was well known and highly respected for the quality of his work.

He added his brother was still in a lot of pain and not yet completely lucid.

Gualtieri's nephews, who were with him at the time, said Sam was attacked after trying to chase a group of natives off the property. Joe said one nephew had identified several people on a video shown to him by police.

But several natives gave a different version, saying the protesters were acting in self-defence.

OPP Sergeant Dave Rektor said no arrests had been made but added investigators were working "diligently" on the case.

"Had we seen someone assaulting someone, police would have intervened," he said.

"There's nothing to prevent us from responding to a criminal act from taking place if it's in plain view."

Rektor would not elaborate on the details of the OPP investigation but said officers were receiving support from both Caledonia residents and Six Nations police.

On Friday, several Six Nations leaders distanced themselves from the incident, calling it "an atrocity", and apologized to Gualtieri's family.

Joe said that while their apology may have been sincere, he still held the Confederacy leadership responsible for the actions of protesters involved in the fight with his brother.

"I believe they were aware of what they were capable of," he said.

Joe added his two nieces, both with houses under construction on the site, are too scared to move their families into the subdivision now.

Yesterday, Kragten met with a group of residents already living on the 90-home subdivision where about 45 homes are either completed or partially constructed, to try to reassure them of their future safety.

"We've had some good co-operation (with Six Nations) and gone further than I think anyone has gone before."

He told The Spectator last night the last of the protesters had left the subdivision yesterday but that a small group remained behind a nearby barricade. Three native flags were flying near the area yesterday.